Fixers still rampant, says anti-red tape body

Aside from forming an anti-fixers task force, ARTA director general Jeremiah Belgica said many government offices need capacity building to do away with the need for fixers.
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MANILA, Philippines — Despite intensified efforts to curb illicit deals in government offices, fixers remain rampant and continue to prey on Filipinos who want their documents released immediately, the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) said yesterday.

Aside from forming an anti-fixers task force, ARTA director general Jeremiah Belgica said many government offices need capacity building to do away with the need for fixers.

“We need a lot of capacity building because we need to be constantly apprehending fixers as they are still rampant,” Belgica said in Filipino.

Republic Act 9485 or the Anti-Red Tape Act provides that government employees engaging in illicit transactions with fixers can be dismissed from service.

Violators face imprisonment of less than six years and fines ranging from P20,000 to P200,000.

People who deal with fixers when applying for documents from any government office can be held liable under the law.

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In several chapters of the Bureau of Internal Revenue, one of five most complained agencies according to the Presidential Complaint Center (PCC), Belgica said there are numerous individuals that need to be charged and imprisoned.

During his 4th State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Duterte threatened to kill officials of these five agencies if they don’t improve their services. 

The four other most red tape-ridden agencies were the Land Transportation Office, Pag-IBIG Fund, Social Security System and Land Registration Authority, the PCC said.

Belgica said an agency not landing in the top five does not mean there are fewer incidents of red tape going on in there.

“There are so many agencies that are not in the top five but red tape is grossly manifested,” Belgica said, adding this could only mean the transacting public does not know how to file a complaint or are too afraid to do so.

The ARTA formed the anti-fixers group after the implementing rules and regulations of RA 11032 or the Ease of Doing Business and Effective Government Service Delivery Act of 2018 took effect on Aug. 5.

Under the law, a simple transaction with a government agency must be completed within three days.

Complicated transactions should only take seven days and highly technical cases must be resolved within 20 days. 

First ‘paperless’ agency 

In a bid to become the first “paperless” government agency, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) signed a memorandum of understanding with ARTA to intensify the implementation of RA 11032, which seeks to automate government systems and avoid delays in issuance of permits.

Under the agreement, the DICT will develop the Philippine Business Databank and the Central Business Portal, which are both essential initiatives in automating and digitizing government systems and services.

The agencies are also planning to create a national modernization plan, which will allow government agencies to operate digitally.

Deemed approved

Complaints regarding thousands of applications for drugs and food products pending before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prompted the ARTA to seek automatic approval of these documents.

Data from the ARTA showed there are at least 20,000 and 15,000 pending applications for drugs and food products, respectively, before the FDA. 

Of the number, some 2,000 to 3,000 drugs and about 2,000 food products are already in the market, although their applications for renewal remain pending.

Belgica said the ARTA would issue a formal order to have these applications automatically approved. 

“There are a lot of products that we already see as harmless for public consumption if the FDA approves them,” Belgica said at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay news forum yesterday.

A meeting between the ARTA and FDA on Monday showed there are 2,083 renewal cases for existing drugs that have been with the FDA beyond the accepted number of days as provided under RA 11032.

“It’s just that their registration expired. It only needs renewal, so what else needs investigation? If nothing changed in the product, then it’s already deemed approved,” Belgica said, adding the products should only be subjected to post-evaluations.

The ARTA is currently waiting for the FDA to submit a complete list of pending product applications.

Belgica said they received reports that fixers are victimizing companies and individuals applying for registration with the FDA.

He said this could be one of the reasons  why applications have been stalled.

Belgica said one of the problems that contributed to the FDA backlog are false information about the products being applied for registration.

Companies are required to submit an affidavit of undertaking, which means that any fake information about the product will result in the filing of perjury cases against them.

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